Manticora – Roots Of Eternity

September 25, 2012 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by blackwindmetal

Manticora
Roots Of Eternity
1999

I remember trying desperately to get into Manticora at a younger age, purchasing 8 Deadly Sins (which, interestingly enough, is the band’s most melodic and accessible release) before so many other Euro-metal releases that I was better-prepared for. Over time (and several fits of nothing but darker, heavier power metal), I finally came around to the band’s catalog, mostly thanks to the band’s third release, Hyperion.  I was rather late in discovering Roots Of Eternity, the debut release of an exceptional power metal band that would go on to become one of my favorites. In perfect hindsight, I would have done well to access Manticora’s material in chronological order, as their growth into the snarling behemoth that the band is today has been gradual and noticeable.

Here on the debut, one who is only familiar with the more modern incarnation of the band may find themselves a bit surprised and/or disappointed. More than anywhere else, the compositions here are more reminiscent of Manticora’s more standard compatriots in the metal scene. Straight out of the gate, however, Manticora forges a signature sound by blending the aggression and guitar-centered focus of German power metal with the high speed gallop of Scandinavia, while blending in some chromatic and rhythmic elements more typical of extreme metal.

Here on the debut, Lars Larsen’s voice is perhaps at its weakest. However, he’s never been a terribly dynamic singer. If you’re a Manticora fan, you’ve acquired the taste and adjusted to Lars’ voice, and if you haven’t, it is highly unlikely that your opinion will change upon listening to future albums. Between the combination of his initials and his disctinctive singing tone, Lars has earned the nickname “Old Leather Lungs” amongst metal fans (and some critics). I can’t be sure how Lars himself feels about the nickname, but I find it a good descriptor of how his voice feels and sounds.

This album is a bit of a trick musically, since the darker, proggier, and more ambitious tracks are less developed and have not reached the heights of Hyperion and Safe. Simultaneously, no concept is developed as much as those seen on the back-to-back Black Circus albums, and so I feel that Roots Of Eternity is a bit unique in that its simpler songs are its finest. One shining example of this is the softly sequestering “Beyond The Walls Of Sleep”, which offers the only real relief from the moderately fast chugging of most of the rest of the album. Lars’ vocals are more relaxed on this song, and Schultz and Larsen’s (Kristian, this time) guitar play is soft, emotional, and plaintive. Rare’s the time that I really enjoy a soft “metal” tune, and rarer still (or perhaps “unprecendented” is the term) when that song is my favorite track to come back to on an album time and time again. That’s exactly what “Walls Of Sleep” does, however.

Other highlights include the simplistic but very catchy “Nowhere Land”, as well as the more melodic opener “When Forever Ends”. The closing title track is the second longest that the band has ever composed, and despite doing the ten-plus-minute track much better the second time around (11 years later on Safe), it is still one of the most solid and continuously interesting tracks on the album.

While less organized and not as expertly executed, Roots Of Eternity is still a very solid debut album, and one that proves to be a reasonably challenging listen even for long time fans of the band. In terms of the band’s career, this and Darkness With Tales To Tell can be looked at as an artistic brainstorming session spanning three years, after which the band emerged triumphantly with a string of superb dark power metal releases. This is not my first recommendation for baptizing oneself in Manticora, but it is definitely a must-have release for fans of the band’s brand of complex power metal.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5